Twenty-five middle school students from DSST Conservatory Green’s Peer Mentor Program spend time weekly with students in the Multiple Intensive Severe (MIS) program led by teacher, Michael Vess. Sometimes being a mentor means just being a friend.

Watch the clip from Denver7

Written by Tricia Noyola, CEO at Rocky Mountain Prep for The74

Teaching is a rewarding and challenging job — a career not for the faint of heart. Teachers pour their hearts and souls into their classroom to give each student an opportunity. Over the years teaching has morphed into an even bigger job in education — teachers are counselors, confidants, caregivers, nurses and sometimes parent figures.

Since the pandemic hit, everything in education has gotten so much harder.

Over the last two years, teachers have faced enormous challenges. They have provided social-emotional support to students who lost family members. They have switched at a moment’s notice to online learning, taken temperatures, isolated from loved ones when COVID struck their classrooms and persevered through illness themselves. All this on top of their primary purpose: to educate children.

As a result of this pressure from the pandemic, many college graduates are choosing not to pursue careers in education. But I believe we are at a unique moment in time to fix this and not only recognize teachers for the professionals they are, but also pay them what they rightly deserve.

As a CEO of a charter school network in Denver, I’m committed to providing the best place for teachers who are committed to upholding the school’s values and for all students to realize

their full potential through a rigorous and loving elementary education. While I know that money isn’t the reason anyone goes into education, I have heard loud and clear through surveys and listening sessions that compensation needs to be more competitive for teachers.

Read more in The74.

Last year, Ednium: The Alumni Collective and its alumni partners gathered in full force during the Board of Education meeting where they provided public comment in support of adding financial literacy to high school graduation requirements.

After working with board members, the policy was adopted unanimously, and the real work began.

However, the initial idea to champion a financial literacy campaign started in 2019 when alumni partners came together in Ednium’s Design Lab to identify issues they could impact in public-school education.

Through in-person discussions, coupled with a survey of key stakeholders, the issue that resonated the most was financial literacy. Alumni expressed a lack of understanding on topics such as personal finance, loans, credit cards, and budgeting. After graduation, many were challenged to learn the hard way which oftentimes resulted in long-term consequences that had a ripple effect on their livelihood. 

“It was a collective space where alumni imagined what this could look like for future students and asked the question, ‘what do I know now that I wish I knew then?,” says Perla Bustillos, Ednium co-founder and director of operations. 

Once the board adopted the policy, the work began to access resources to support the initial goal: integrating the curriculum in all district high schools. 

Read more from Boardhawk.

Denver7 aired on March 9, 2022

A few years ago, Denver Public Schools adopted an innovative model, which allows schools to design their own ‘playbook’ with input from teachers, parents and the community.

“We didn’t want to be a traditional school,” said Alex Magana, executive director of Grant Beacon Middle School and Kepner Beacon Middle School. “We didn’t want to follow just these guidelines, these rules. We wanted to create our own playbook.”

But this model is now threatened. The DPS board has proposed executive limitations on innovative schools, claiming teachers don’t have a choice to opt out in those schools. The teacher’s union says that violates teacher rights.

There is now plenty of pushback against that from parents and teachers at innovation schools.

“Literacy is of the highest priority here,” said Victoria Bailey, librarian and Kepner Beacon and Grant Beacon schools. “At many schools, physical libraries are a thing of the past. There is not staffing for a physical library.”

Bailey says this is just one of the many ways innovative schools are improving education.

“We can tailor our schools based on our community, based on our demographic,” she said.

WATCH the story from Denver7.

Photo credit: KMGH

Published on March 7, 2022 in Boardhawk

Not every school is able or willing to go out of its way to meet the needs of families, but Rocky Mountain Prep (RMP) Creekside, where my son Contrelle has attended for six years, regularly goes above and beyond.

What RMP has done for my family over the years just goes to show how a small school community can be responsive in ways larger schools or districts can’t be.

Contrelle is in fifth grade now. He has been at RMP Creekside since kindergarten. In all those years, I honestly cannot remember one thing the school has done that I would criticize. And four months ago, when I had my second child, the school went way above and beyond to help ensure that Contrelle could get to school each day.

My husband goes to work very early in the morning, so I’m the one who gets Contrelle to the bus stop every day. But with a newborn and the cold December weather, this was challenging. Schools do not normally provide a door-to-door car service for their families, and it’s not their responsibility to do that. It’s unheard of. Still, that is exactly what RMP did. I am so grateful.

READ more from Boardhawk.

Rocky Mountain PBS by Lindsey Ford | Published on February 28, 2022

When COVID-19 arrived to the U.S. in 2020, it changed the American way of life, sending kids home from school, closing stores and restaurants and leading to mandatory social-distancing and mask-wearing.

Two years after the initial shutdown, four Denver-based parents shared with Rocky Mountain PBS some of what they’ve been through, the ways they’ve coped and how they are still feeling the effects of the global pandemic.  

Kristin Franke, a single mother to a 4-year-old, shared that when the pandemic first hit, she was laid off from her job. It was tough for her.

“There’s just a lot of unknowns going on, and I think there is a lot of fear still, and nobody knows how we’re going to get caught up; that’s a big one,” Franke said. “The biggest struggle is being at home with my daughter all the time and not having any outside help.” 

Franke now works from home. She, like the other moms we spoke with, said her daughter’s virtual learning was particularly challenging. To keep the family balance in her household, she let her daughter know that just because she was learning virtually, that didn’t mean it was time to play. Franke suggested parents set up a schedule at home to keep everyone on track, just like if your child was at school. 

Mothers Lorena Popoca, Kadi Kouyate and Ivy Foster have similar set-ups at home for their kids’ learning. 

WATCH the video from RMPBS.

Denver (CBS4) – Denver Public Schools “schoolchoice” open enrollment is underway. The school choice window for open enrollment for the 2022-2023 school year started Friday and continues through 4 p.m. Feb. 15.

“School Choice allows families to really find the best fit for their kiddos that means Yeah, whatever school across the district that best meets their needs. And that’s regardless of whether you live in southwest Denver or you live in a $1 home in Wash Park, you can find a school that really meets your child where they’re at,” said Nicholas Martinez with Transform Education Now.

Applications can be filled out online on the DPS website. The results are expected in late March.

Watch the interview with Nicholas Martinez, Co-Founder, Executive Director of Transform Education Now.

Photo credit: Katie Wood, The Denver Post via Getty Images

Providing fun, engaging activities and welcoming settings for instruction can boost happiness in classrooms — and learning. Written by Kara Arundel, K-12 Dive.

Showing students they can have ownership over their learning can help students stay on task and learn from their mistakes, said Brittany Patton, an interventionist at KIPP Sunshine Peak Elementary School in Denver, Colorado.

Patton uses a “conscious discipline” approach to help her model coping, social, and problem-solving skills for her students, which contributes to an optimal learning environment.

She also has various rituals to help students de-stress, find empathy for others, and move around before lessons. 

For example, students wish someone well by holding their hand over their heart and then pushing those thoughts out by taking their hands off their hearts and pushing the air in front of them. Students also sing, zigzag around the classroom, tap their bodies, and take deep breaths in and breathe out like a lion, ghost or whatever noise they want to make.

Patton’s students also have “commitment trackers” and pick a commitment they will focus on for the lesson, such as keeping their body calm or listening to their teacher. They receive a stamp for meeting commitments and, if they don’t, they will discuss how they will aim to meet the commitment at the next lesson.

“I’m really proud of the way my students have grown in accepting their ‘oopses’ and using those moments to reflect and grow,” Patton said in an email.

Read the full story from K-12 Dive.

by Lindsey Ford, Rocky Mountain PBS

“I just think that one, being Black and a woman, and then being a minority there are just a lot of things that set you back and also being the age that I am, you’re not taken seriously and you just don’t have access to certain things because I am Black and I am a woman, and you are usually pushed to the side,” said Phoebe Amoako. 

Amoako, an 18-year-old Black woman, Itzel Pacheco, a 17-year-old Mexican-American young woman, and Stacey Adimou, a 16-year-old Black young woman, all have a few things in common: They are young women of color with big dreams, and they are all involved in Young Aspiring Americans for Social and Political Activism (YAASPA).  

YAASPA is a nonprofit that supports Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) and other marginalized middle and high school students. The Denver-based organization exposes kids to career pathways to pursue degrees in social justice, teaches them about civic literacy and provides scholarships and skills to help dismantle racism within the education system. The program’s motto is “Redefine the standards to pull down the barriers,” meaning YAASPA’s goal is to break down institutional racism within communities to connect those in the “ivory tower” to marginalized communities.  

Read more from Rocky Mountain PBS.

On Friday, October 22nd, more than 100 people gathered in the cafetorium of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Early College (DMLK) to watch the premiere of Power in Our Voices: The Know Justice, Know Peace Story directed by Diego Estrada Bernuy and Emily Han-Young Hurd of Degotelo Studios and supported in part by RootED Denver.

After the film, a panel of DMLK students, educators, and district curriculum staff sat down with moderator, Dr. Brenda Allen, RootED Denver Board Chair and Professor Emerita, to discuss the film’s themes, the students’ journey and next steps in revising the manner in which DPS teaches Black history. The event was livestreamed on the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Early College Facebook and YouTube pages.

The film showcases the remarkable story of four young women finding their voices and becoming empowered to envision and effect change at their school and across the city. The film relates the emotional and inspirational journey that led to Denver Public Schools’ adoption of the Know Justice, Know Peace Resolution

The film presents a powerful example of what’s possible when student perspectives are lifted up, and when educators are responsive to feedback and have the autonomy to implement changes. DMLK Principal Kimberly Grayson said, “Our vision at MLK is to create great leaders, great communicators and great thinkers. And a part of that is to ensure that we are listening and valuing our students and their voices.”

Student Kaliah Yizar added, “It’s so important that we don’t let the students coming up today not feel important. Especially with things like mental illness affecting teenagers already. Be willing to give students a foundation to value themselves and know that they can do something because the future is really in our hands.”
The students created a podcast, Know Justice Know Peace: The Take, to address the inequities in education today. They hope to keep their resolution alive by having conversations with key people in the implementation, sustainability and overall success of their efforts to transform the DPS curriculum.

At the conclusion of the panel, Dr. Walter Milton and Dr. Joel Freeman, the creators of Black History 365, presented college scholarship checks to all students from the original podcast, Dahni Austin, Alana Mitchell, Jenelle Nangah and Kaliah Yizar. 

View the facilitator’s guide on the RootED website as a way to deepen your understanding of the film and how to organize conversations about it with others.